De Addis Abeba a Ciudad del Cabo (From Addis Ababa to Cape Town)

Chaotic Kampala and life on the Lemon
January 19, 2012, 7:57 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Following a weekend of relaxation, lots of eating and star gazing on the haven island that is Hairy Lemon (HL) – more about that in a bit – we thought we’d better move on before we got too comfortable and fat at HL and couldn’t leave . . . So we thought we’d brave Kampala.

Once you get over the initial impression of reigning chaos in Kampala (but that was probably also due to the area where we stayed, which wasn’t all that nice), it’s not such a bad city and parts of it are quite attractive. The streets are quite clean but the air is clogged with the pollution of the traffic, which is relentless and for a pedestrian, quite scary (Allison, if you can believe it, Alberto and I both think it’s easier crossing the streets of Hanoi than the roads of Kampala!). At the risk of being dramatic, each time we ventured outside our hotel, we braced ourselves for the close shaves we were going to have dodging motorbike taxis (those guys are dangerous as they dart in and out and seem to drive straight towards you with no indication of slowing down), minibus taxis, cars and buses as pedestrians seem to have no rights when it comes to rules of the road.

One of the Kampala taxi parks

One of the Kampala taxi parks

En route to the bus station

En route to the bus station

Kampala Road is the main thoroughfare which runs through the centre of the city and is where most of the banks and some restaurants are (call me sad but I did get a little bit excited at the sight of familiar SA establishments such as Steers, Debonairs and Nando’s – and Woolworths in one of the shopping centres – but I was restrained, I didn’t indulge in any of them). The differences between the surrounding areas on either side of the road are remarkable – our hotel was on the side that was closest to the taxi park and bus station so while good for transport, I wouldn’t stay there again (one night after dinner while walking back to our hotel – hand in hand too, mind you – Alberto was propositioned by a prostitute who thankfully just laughed when I turned my head and glared at her). The parliament building, fancy hotels and more nice restaurants are on the other side of Kampala Road and that’s probably where you’d choose to spend more of your time.

On our second morning we walked down to one of the main shopping centres and ended up spending most of the day there. As part of my Christmas present from Mom and Dad, I treated myself to a much needed – and surprisingly relaxing – manicure and pedicure (the spa seemed a bit dubious at first as it’s in a parking lot and inside is dimly lit with red light bulbs but that’s as dodgy as it got) administered by Jameel, a young Ugandan guy, who complimented me on my nails (as most of you know, I’ve been biting my nails forever and it’s only been in the last five months that I’ve managed to grow them so I was pretty chuffed at his remark). Alberto and I then had back and shoulder massages which I think we both needed to relieve some of our travel stress!

For dinner we met up with Andrea, an Italian structural engineer who we’d briefly met at Hairy Lemon, and I feasted on awesome masala dosa at yet another really good Indian restaurant. Andrea used to live in Manchester for a while (his wife is British) and then worked in Zimbabwe (building cholera water treatment centres during the outbreak a few years ago) and Kenya before moving to Uganda – he’s a really great guy with a wicked sense of humour and we had a really good evening. Andrea recommended we head to the nearby National Theatre as he said there’s often live music on and we’re glad we did – we were treated to an African percussion session and the music was great. The dancers were pretty entertaining too – especially eight-year-old Shafiq (son and grandson of the band members) who was quite comfortable being in the spotlight and taking centre stage to show off his impressive dance moves :-)

After just two days in Kampala, it was crazy to think that only a few days before and in under two hours away, we were at Hairy Lemon, which is worlds apart from the madness of city life.

The island in the Nile that is Hairy Lemon was established about nine years ago and is the perfect getaway – we can totally see how people get stuck there and don’t want to leave. We travelled from Jinja, which is at most an hour away, to a small village called Nazigo and then heaved ourselves and our backpacks on to the back of a bodaboda and held on for dear life as we bounced along 10km of dirt road. Once at the ‘parking lot’ for the island, you announce your arrival by banging on an old tyre rim and from what seems like out of nowhere, the boatman (this guy’s got muscles!) appears to row us back across to our little island oasis.

Sounding our arrival at Hairy Lemon

Sounding our arrival at Hairy Lemon

The mighty Nile (looking pretty calm in this shot)

The mighty Nile (looking pretty calm in this shot)

HL’s especially popular with experienced and professional kayakers as there are some serious rapids nearby to play around in (Alberto and I had a go with a two-man kayak one day – not all that different from our Laos experience, Valerie :-p – but we played it safe and stuck to the quieter parts of the river) and Paul, the relatively new South African owner (another awesome character – very calm and laidback and I reckon he’s seen a fair bit of the world), has done the Dusi (an annual 120km canoe race back home in South Africa) a number of times too. Paul’s trying to encourage more families to visit the island and we even helped him choose pictures (and I did a tiny bit of editing and additions) for an article that’s due to be published in a magazine called The Eye, which is aimed at expats living and working in Uganda. Fingers crossed that works out for him.

The kayak collection

The kayak collection

Apart from a kayak session, we spent three days lying in our hammocks, reading our books, swimming in the Nile and getting fed delicious food. Evenings were pretty chilled too – a bit more reading, lots more eating plus a bit of stargazing – I forget how much I like to be able to see the stars – and then off to sleep in our tent which was pitched very close to banks of the Nile. It was brilliant!

Morning views at Hairy Lemon

Morning views at Hairy Lemon

This is what it's all about . . .

This is what it's all about . . .

Very cute (and delicious too when roasted on the fire at Hairy Lemon!)

Very cute (and delicious too when roasted on the fire at Hairy Lemon!)

Anyway, on to new adventures and places and now we’re in Fort Portal in the southwest for a quick pitstop before we head to the surrounding crater lakes.

Our bus journey from Kampala to Fort Portal started off as yet another random African travelling experience – the first two hours involved enduring the ramblings of a preacher/politician wannabe/salesman projecting his sermon and selling his wares to an audience that was mostly asleep via a mouthpiece connected to a strategically placed (right behind us) speaker hanging from a hook on the bus railing. Thankfully at the halfway point, the speaker was unhooked and the salesman got off. We then watched as a little while later, the bus stopped alongside a tiny village for a woman to disembark with her belongings which included an office sized photocopier, petrol generator and an assortment of plastic bags and suitcases. She was then replaced by a new passenger who stuffed a live and squawking chicken into the luggage hold underneath the bus . . . Just another day in Africa!

More news soon.

7 Comments so far
Leave a comment

Para los hispanoparlantes, Simone esta mucho mas trabajadora que yo ultimamente y por eso casi todos los posts estan en ingles. Aqui una traduccion cortesia de Google:

Comment by albertocuesta

I’m glad you tried kayaking again, proud of you man! Hairy Lemon looks brilliant! Gorgeous pic and your text reminds me of Don Det! :) My sis is going to Laos in April, awwwwww. Did you really eat that pig? I called him Gilbert. x

Comment by Valerie McIntosh

Sorry Val, not sure if it was that piglet exactly but we definitely ate pig and it was awesome! Kayaking was cool but the dugout canoe in Lake Bunyonyi was a lot more fun and chilled :-)


Comment by Simone

Hairy Lemon looks amazing – any idea how the name originated? Would really love to know the story behind that! Keep writing — I close my eyes and imagine myself there – well at some place! Travel safe & luv u lots xxxx

Comment by Renee du Plessis

You relaxing in the hammock – I’d swap you any day! (I’m looking forward to doing that in July!) and I love the notice on the tree at HL – had a chuckle! Safe and happy travelling. Love you lots x x

Comment by Cheryl

Recuerdos y que encontreis gente y lugares que merecen un tiempo. Un abrazo

Comment by alberto

Saw your comment about the Hanoi traffic, trying to explain to Alan (our shop manager ) about keeping your eyes on the horizon, and walking …praying as you go…he thinks I am exaggerating! Sound great, wait until I tell Gus the next trip is to the Hairy Lemon, ‘a quaint charming SA run establishment just off the beaten track’…it makes Ibo Island seem like Club Med! Big hugs, safe travels xx

Comment by Allison

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